Analyzing Post-Rutgers Reactions For Penn State Football

Despite battling the flu all week, Penn State football managed to take down Rutgers at Senior Day.

True freshman Christian Veilleux led the Nittany Lions to the 28-0 victory while Sean Clifford dealt with the flu himself. The Canadian threw for three scores and 235 yards, and now leaves some interesting conversation surrounding James Franklin’s group.

As Penn State prepares for its battle for the Land-Grant Trophy against Michigan State, let’s discuss some hot takes.

‘Christian Veilleux Is The Future At Quarterback’

Will Pegler: Let’s pump the brakes. Veilleux looked poised and played well in his debut on Saturday, but that doesn’t mean he’s automatically the “chosen one” for Penn State. This will no doubt be an interesting week of practice for the Nittany Lions, but I’m not going to make any crazy claims about this young quarterback until we find out a little bit more about him.

Sam Brungo: Drew Allar would like to have a word. Veilleux will be a viable backup for fourth quarters against Rutgers and in the event Allar gets hurt, but I’m afraid that will be his only future role for the Nittany Lions.

Ryan Parsons: If by “future” you mean “next year,” that could certainly be the case. While there’s lots of hype surrounding incoming quarterback prospects Drew Allar and Beau Pribula, the reality is that it’s rare that true freshmen start at quarterback. Even Veilleux, who looked great against Rutgers, wasn’t ready to go against Iowa and Illinois when Penn State could’ve used him. If Clifford decides to come back, it’s a different story, but even then I would expect the competition to be open.

Gabe Angieri: Christian Veilleux played well in his collegiate debut Saturday. It was an eye-opening performance, but I’m not ready to label him as the second coming just yet. Drew Allar is arriving on campus next year, so the quarterback job can’t just be given to Veilleux. However, the Canadian certainly helped his case against Rutgers.

‘If Veilleux Went In Against Iowa, Penn State Would Be Vying For A Rose Bowl Appearance Right Now’

Will Pegler: I’ve been seeing this take floating around on social media since Saturday’s win. In fact, James Franklin was asked at his postgame presser why Veilleux wasn’t chosen to go in when Clifford went down at Kinnick Stadium. The head coach’s answer was pretty clear, as he explained that Veilleux has quite simply gotten better, and that wasn’t necessarily a great situation for a true freshman to check into.

Would Veilleux have done better than Ta’Quan Roberson against Iowa? Honestly, I don’t think so. That stadium was rocking, and Veilleux hadn’t gotten any in-game reps up to that point. Of course everyone will say he should’ve played against the Hawkeyes, and he’s “clearly” better than Roberson. But based on Franklin’s comments, I truly don’t think the difference was that clear back in week six.

Sam Brungo: Honestly, no. This seems like an overreaction to me. Anyone with the lack of experience that him and Roberson had would easily have a similar outcome. After all, Iowa had a great defense — lightyears better than Rutgers.

Ryan Parsons: This is a tough one. James Franklin said after the Rutgers game that it was “obvious” to everyone in the program that Roberson was the best choice at the time, which is a pretty strong shutdown of the Veilleux theory. The head coach said the Canadian quarterback really improved since those games just a month or two ago, but it’s not implausible that Veilleux would’ve played better than Roberson against Iowa. However, that’s not a high bar. Even though the true freshman played only against Rutgers, that version of himself would’ve almost certainly been able to pace Penn State to a win over Iowa. Would the week six version of himself have been able to? Maybe not.

Gabe Angieri: This is a big-time overreaction for me. Veilleux is a true freshman, and like Franklin said after Saturday’s game, he’s improved over the course of the season. It’s entirely possible Veilleux just wasn’t ready to play at that point. Additionally, that’s a really tough environment for any quarterback to play in, especially a true freshman. I don’t think Veilleux would’ve fared much better than Ta’Quan Roberson.

‘Penn State Will Find A Way To Beat Michigan State’

Will Pegler: The Nittany Lions will put themselves in a position to beat the Spartans. Penn State has managed to play to its competition, for better or for worse, throughout this season. Whether or not the team finds a way to make the big plays down the stretch and beat Michigan State is an entirely different story, however.

Sam Brungo: I don’t see why not. If Penn State brings the same energy that it’s played with most of the season, including Michigan, Ohio State, and the first half against Iowa, I think it should be able to handle the Spartans. If the same team we saw against Maryland and Illinois shows up, the Nittany Lions may return to Happy Valley 7-5.

Ryan Parsons: I could see it, especially after how poorly the Spartans played against Ohio State — a team Penn State played fairly closely. Michigan State has one of the worst pass defenses in the Big Ten, and although Penn State doesn’t exactly have the offensive firepower to fully take advantage of that, it’s a weakness the Nittany Lions have previously exploited on other teams. With Kenneth Walker III’s status questionable as well, I could see Brent Pry’s defense feasting on a banged-up and out of steam Michigan State offensive squad. Vegas says it’ll be close, so picking Penn State isn’t a crazy notion.

Gabe Angieri: I think this is definitely possible. This game could go either way, which is what Vegas believes as well. Obviously, Michigan State is a much tougher opponent than Rutgers. However, if Penn State’s defense played like it did against Rutgers. the Nittany Lions can 100% come out on top.

‘Penn State Is The Best Four-Loss Team In The Country’

Will Pegler: I’m not comfortable saying this definitively, but the Nittany Lions are certainly towards the top of the list. Arkansas and Mississippi State are both talented teams that hold 7-4 records, but I’d put Penn State right in that group. James Franklin’s squad has a pretty solid resume and has battled great teams, and I think they’re a couple of big plays away from having a much prettier record on the year.

Sam Brungo: I think that is very accurate and definitely not an overreaction. If Penn State hadn’t lost to Illinois, I think that this team could easily be the best three-loss team as well.

Ryan Parsons: East Carolina, UCF, K State, Minnesota, Purdue, Western Kentucky, Marshall, UAB, UTEP, Liberty, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Boise State, Nevada, Oregon State, Arizona State, UCLA, Mississippi State, Arkansas. I like Penn State’s chances against basically all of these teams. Arkansas might be the closest bet, but it lost to Auburn!

Gabe Angieri: Yeah, I can get on board with this. I won’t 100% declare this, but I believe it’s definitely possible that Penn State is the best four-loss team in the country. As Ryan said, none of the other four-loss teams really jump off the page.

‘It’s Time For Sean Clifford To Move On’

Will Pegler: I feel pretty bad for Sean Clifford. The dude has given plenty to this program, but a couple of tough breaks over the past two seasons have truly held him back from reaching his full potential. If he doesn’t get hurt against Iowa, he and this team are in a much different place with one week left in the season. His future in the NFL Draft looks pretty uncertain, so he will likely consider coming back for one more season in Happy Valley.

If he’s promised the starting job in 2022 and he and his coaches feel he has room to grow, then I guess it would make sense for him to come back. However, I’m not sure that’s truly the case as he finishes up his third season as Penn State’s starter.

Sam Brungo: If he decides to come back, this is still his team in my opinion. I can’t imagine he will want to return for his sixth year. I feel that Clifford is still a very good quarterback and has done quite a bit for this program. If he decides to come back, folks should be happy to watch him for another year.

Ryan Parsons: I like Sean Clifford. He’s really a fighter and has taken a lot of criticism and hits from opposing defenses during his time at Penn State. His will to win and toughness have never been questioned. But, in full honesty, the end of this season seems like a great time to end the marriage before things get ugly.

Gabe Angieri: Man, this isn’t an overreaction. I think Clifford gets way too much hate. He fought through a lot of pain this year and has played well for the most part. However, it’s time for him to go after this year. With Drew Allar and Beau Pribula coming next season, and Christian Veilleux possibly ready to take a jump, it’s set to be a crowded quarterback room. It’ll be time to pass the torch after the season.

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About the Author

Will Pegler

Will is a senior majoring in digital and print journalism and is an associate editor for Onward State. He is from Darien, Connecticut and is a lifelong Penn State football fan. He loves a good 80's comedy movie, Peaky Blinders, The Office, and the New York Yankees and Giants. You can catch some of his ridiculous sports takes on his Twitter @gritdude and yell at him on his email [email protected]

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